Chelsea Clinton’s $5 million (not so) Jewish wedding

When you’re Chelsea Clinton and your wedding is being touted the social event of the decade, no expense is spared.

According to The New York Daily News, Clinton’s 500-guest wedding could cost anywhere between $3 and $5 million, a figure that even shames Tom Cruise, whose wedding to Katie Holmes is said to have cost a mere $2 million. “If you’re crunching the numbers,” The Daily News writes, “at a budget of $3 million and with 500 of the former First Family’s nearest and dearests in attendance (that’s the anticipated count), it comes out to $6,000 a head.”

With that price tag, let’s hope the kosher meat is cooked to perfection. This is, after all, The Clinton Family, the closest thing to American royalty as we get, and we wouldn’t want them having any ordinary wedding. So we’ll allow them their $600,000 air-conditioned tents and $200,000 security detail. Because Astor Courts — the private, French-style mansion set on 50 acres overlooking the Hudson—is accessible by air, land or sea, which means the Clinton’s may have to pony up extra cash for air traffic control—and keeping air space clear. You know, so Air Force One can arrive safely, and Oprah can descend the red-carpet from her jet. Besides, no one wants paparazzi swirling overhead in a repeat of Madonna’s disastrous wedding to Sean Penn.

The Daily News dismissed the wedding extravagances with a simple “Bill and Hillary can afford it.” After all, between 2000 and 2007, they reportedly earned a combined $109 million (though I’m still getting emails about Hillary’s campaign debt).

But I’d like to offer another take: Bill and Hillary (and Chelsea) deserve it.

A $5 million wedding would give most Oscar parties a run for their money, but this one comes with a wonderful imbalance: The Clinton wedding expenses are really chump change compared with the Clinton family’s philanthropic giving. Bill, for one, has made rebuilding Haiti his raison d’etre, an attractive cause celebre, that has so far, according to The Clinton Foundation Website, provided 34,000 tents, 24 tons of medical supplies, 45,000 tons of water and almost 400,000 articles of clothing to the Haitian people. 

A lavish wedding is a lavish wedding, but the Clinton wedding deserves to be seen in context. This is a family that has devoted itself to public service, in the U.S. and around the world, and in doing so has reaped substantial financial benefit. And instead of stopping there, they’ve used their material gain to do more philanthropic work, tackle even larger social problems and to continue to challenge the status quo.

When you look at it that way, Chelsea’s wedding looks less like an intermarriage and more like a symbol of the most Jewish thing about them.

For more on “Materialism”: 

Please join me, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Rabbi Naomi Levy and L.A. City Council Prexy Eric Garcetti as we discuss The Forces of Materialism at Young Israel of Century City, tonight, July 27, 7:30 p.m., 9315 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles